An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Gandhi and his call for Firearms to be given to India’s Citizens: Was he really a Pacifist?

A quote from Gandhi has gained prominence in recent months, specially in the US because of the Guns possession debate.

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.”

Some say it wasn’t Gandhi, some say it has been misquoted.  Those who say Gandhi said this – say it is on Page 446 of his Autobiography.  The context seems to have been explained thus:

“I used to issue leaflets asking people to enlist as recruits. One of the arguments I had used was distasteful to the Commissioner: ‘Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.

Many find it utterly distasteful coming from a man of non-violence.  I have not read his Autobiography, but I do believe Gandhi could have said that.  Why?  Because he did this kind of thing on another occasion.  On March 2, 1930 Gandhi wrote a long letter to Viceroy Irwin explaining the reasons, issues as well as his demands from the British.  He also used the letter to inform him that civil disobedience would begin on March 11.

The 11 points of his demands were:

  1. Total Prohibition
  2. A better Rupee-Sterling rate
  3. 50% reduction in Land Revenue
  4. Abolition of Salt tax
  5. 50% reduction in military expenditure
  6. Reduction in Official Salaries
  7. Tariffs on foreign cloth
  8. Reservation of coastal shipping for Indian ships
  9. Release of political prisoners except those convicted for murder or attempted murder
  10. Abolition of Criminal Intelligence Department (and control over it by elected representatives)
  11. Right of Indians to licensed firearms

See the last one?  Well, that was in his personal letter to Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy.  He started his Civil Disobedience – the Dandi March because of demand #4 (Abolition of Salt Tax).  Maybe that is the reason why people forget the last demand, which seems as if it was coming from the NRA of US!

Was Gandhi a Pacifist?  Was he not?  Can’t say categorically.

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